Maurice Baker said that he and long-time Dakota Wizards teammate Renaldo Major wanted to give the fans in Bismarck one more Mo and Renaldo show.
A draft night trade of Major spoiled those plans, but it turns out they will get that chance after all.
The Wizards and Major’s Bakersfield Jam will meet in the D-League quarterfinals. Game 1 of the best-of-3 series is tonight in Bakersfield.
The Wizards will host Game 2, and if necessary, Game 3, at the Bismarck Civic Center Sunday and Monday.
Baker said he’s relishing the chance to square off against his old friend.
“It’s fun playing them,” Baker said. “Renaldo is going to come out and give it his all. I’m going to give it my all and just compete, try to get wins.”
Baker’s only regret is that with the Wizards’ likely to move to California next season, depending on which team wins the series, one or both will be playing in Bismarck for the final time.
“I try not to think about it, because I’m loyal to these fans here,” Baker said. “I don’t want to see the team leave, because the fans love this team, but it’s a business situation.”
Defending the Jam, the D-League’s most offensively balanced team, will be a challenge for the Wizards.
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Brian Butch is Bakersfield’s leading scorer at 15.3 points per game. He is followed in close order by Derrick Byars and Major, both at 15.2; Juan Pattillo at 14.5 and Jeremy Wise at 13.9. Trey Johnson and Travis Leslie also both average in double figures.
“They’re really talented,” Bjorkgren said. “They’ve got a lot of guys who are experienced, a lot of guys who have played in the D-League. They’re solid on both sides of the basketball.”
The Wizards went 2-1 against Bakersfield during the regular season.
The Wizards have been the most successful franchise in minor-league basketball since their inception in 1995. Dakota has won four championships, one in the IBA, two in the CBA and one in the D-League.
Bakersfield never has advanced past the first round in the playoffs. The Jam, which began operations in 2006 — the same year the Wizards joined the D-League — is making its third postseason appearance.
After being reassigned to the D-League by the Golden State Warriors, Chris Wright returned to practice with the Wizards on Tuesday.
Wright dinged up his left knee early in the session, and coach Nate Bjorkgren quickly sent him to the sideline to ice it. Bjorkgren said Wright should be fine to play tonight.
“I just didn’t want to take any chances,” Bjorkgren said.